Life took on a new meaning for Cath

CATH Harwood knew how to do many things, but two stood out.She knew how to love, and how to live – both of which she did with gusto and expecting nothing in return.I’ll never forget the day Cath came into our lives. The devoted wife, mother and grandmother had been diagnosed with cancer five years earlier, and had come to me to write a story promoting the Bendigo Cancer Support Group.I asked if I could make it personal – not knowing quite how personal it would become.What was scheduled as a routine interview quickly became the beginning of a friendship that meant so much more than any story in the paper.I knew Cath was special the minute she said getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened to her.Instead of being one of the darkest moments in her life, she saw the magic.She had truly discovered that the heart of humanity wasgoodness, joy and care – “yeah, I had to gain this to get that... but I don’t begrudge it’’ she said.And from that day on, Cath brought sunshine into our lives. It wasn’t always in person, as Cath could only get out and about for a few hours each day, but she made sure she followed our lives on Facebook and made regular contact.On the few occasions we visited each other’s homes, wewould never have known how difficult it was for her – such was her commitment to enjoy every single moment of her life.Cath was an example of someone who loved without wants. A woman who never made demands, never held grudges and never complained.People loved and respected her because she was genuinely kind and warm, and despite her daily battle to survive, she cared enough about others to always ask how they were going and what she could do to help. Never did she sit and complain. Ever.In the years before her diagnosis, Cath worked with families caring for children with disabilities and in the years following, she gave most of her time to the support group set up for others living with cancer.Within five years of starting the group, Cath and her darling husband Bob had taken a membership of eight to a database of more than 80.Cath also connected with hundreds of people across the globe, communicating online and inspiring others on their cancer journey.Even when she was visiting her doctor, Cath would find ways to help others – whether distributing helpful brochures or sitting outside to make room for others ‘‘more sick’’ in the waiting room.My daughters and I learnt much from such an amazing woman – to be grateful for each other; to appreciate the smallest things; to walk outside and just be thankful for whatever the day brings.And we learnt so much from Bob. He stood by Cath’s side every second of every day – nursing her back to better health when she was failing, laughing with her and truly living up to his commitment to honour her in sickness and in health. Together, they were quite the team.Soon after Cath’s diagnosis, the Harwoods introduced the Stop, and start again rule.“We’re not in competition in this world,’’ Cath said.“It’s not about winning or getting to the line first, or getting kudos because you did or didn’t do that, it’s about working together to enjoy life to the fullest.’’ And Cath did.Sadly, her battle with cancer ended this week. Cath passed away with her much-loved and loving family by her side.As Bob told those who gathered yesterday to say goodbye, Cath left the world in a better condition than she found it.And she did that by living up to her motto, for which she was so well known.“Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble and there is always time.’’Nicole Ferrie is the Bendigo Advertiser’s deputy editor.